Mid-life crisis at The PumpHouse – Last of the Red Hot Lovers by Neil Simon
Pulitzer prize-winning American playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon has a long and distinguished career of creating a particular style of comedy that is typically Jewish with its roots in New York.
Navel-gazing, neurotic, self-deprecating characters populate his works which unlike much of the comedy that came before it, is heavy on irony; in the words of Jack Lemmon, “Neil has the ability to write characters — even the leading characters that we’re supposed to root for — that are absolutely flawed. They have foibles. They have faults. But, they are human beings. They are not all bad or all good; they are people we know.”
Some of Neil Simon’s stage and screen hits include Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. Last of the Red Hot Lovers premiered on Broadway in 1969, running for over 700 performances and is just one of 30 plays penned by Simon who is considered to be America’s greatest living playwright with more Tony and Oscar nominations than any other. He is also the world’s most successful playwright whose plays have been produced in dozens of languages and multiple film and television adaptations. Simon’s more famous contemporary Woody Allen has made this style of humour his signature. More recently, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David have pushed the envelope further. Their sophisticated humour has always been understood and appreciated in New Zealand.
In Tadpole Productions’ October season of Last of the Red Hot Lovers at The PumpHouse, long-time Auckland actor of stage and screen and North Shore resident, Peter Feeney, is Barney Cashman, a 47-year-old middle-aged man in the throes of a mid-life crisis. In a desperate attempt to grab a piece of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ sexual revolution, Barney embarks on a series of seductions with three very different women – all in his Mother’s apartment.
Each encounter presents Barney with a classic nightmare date scenario as each woman adds her own batch of neuroses, nuttiness and substance abuse into the mix. His simple desire to spice up a life of mundane regularity swiftly descends into tangled web territory.
Last of the Red Hot Lovers is Peter Feeney’s first Neil Simon comedy and the October season will be his second appearance on The PumpHouse Theatre stage. Peter – “like Barney Cashman, I’m 47 but I sincerely hope that my no doubt imminent mid-life crisis, when it lands, will not be as brutally painful as Barney’s. I’d like to reassure my wife that I’m currently not planning any extra-marital affairs”.
Barney’s three paramours are played by Joy Buckle who takes on the role of Elaine, a serial adulteress and ranting sex addict; Bodelle De Ronde plays young pothead psycho Bobbi with Anna Stillaman rounding out the trio in the role of the depressive Jeanette, who also happens to be a friend of Barney’s wife.
Last of the Red Hot Lovers is the second production for fledgling North Shore theatre company Tadpole Productions and is their first comedy. The company’s debut production at The PumpHouse in June this year saw a successful season of the classic drama The Lion in Winter by James Goldman.
SIMON’S SEXUAL REVOLUTION NEVER SIMPLE
LAST OF THE RED HOT LOVERS
at The Pumphouse, Takapuna, Auckland
Reviewed by Paul Simei-Barton, 22 Oct 2012
Ham-fisted bid to try life on the wild side makes for wicked satire
Tadpole Productions’ commitment to bringing professional theatre to the Takapuna Pumphouse comes with the bonus of an unusual selection of plays.
It is surprising that Neil Simon’s vast repertoire is hardly ever staged in New Zealand. He is regarded as America’s most successful playwright and his work will be familiar to local audiences through TV or movie adaptations of Broadway hits such as The Odd Couple and Brighton Beach Memoirs.
Last of the Red Hot Lovers is a Tony Award-winning play from 1969 in which he serves up an ironic view of the sexual revolution as seen through the eyes of a respectable restaurateur who is trying to stave off a mid-life crisis by having a once-in-a-lifetime stab at marital infidelity.